Reflection for the 2nd Sunday before Lent 2021

Finding God in Others

The content of this Reflection is a summary of the contributions of church members who shared insights and ideas during the Zoom Study Time in the first week of February.

The Collect Prayer for the 2nd Sunday before Lent

Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever. Amen.

A Gospel Reading from Luke 7.2-10

   “2 And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5 for he loves our nation, and it was he who built us our synagogue.”  6 Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7 for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 “For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 9 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.”

Inundated by the Roman Enemy – 63BC

In 587 BC, the Jews were forcibly absorbed into the Babylonian Empire.  In 540 BC, they were passed on to the Persian Empire.  In 332 BC, they became part of the Macedonian Empire – followed by the Ptolemaic and the Syrian Empires.  In 161 BC, they finally returned to being an independent Jewish state.  Sadly, in 63 BC, Judea was taken over by the Roman Empire.  Not surprisingly, Jews hated the Romans.  This is the backcloth to our gospel reading.

How a Roman Centurion had Won Respect from the Jewish Elders

This picture is a reconstruction of the Jewish synagogue in Capernaum in about 30 AD. From verse 5, we realised that this Roman Centurion was respected by the Jewish elders because he had shown love for Israel by building a synagogue.  Because of this, these elders came to Jesus on his behalf.

Jesus and the Roman Centurion

Jesus shows no response to the Centurion’s good deeds or track record of being “worthy.”   He also totally bypasses the fact that this man is one of the hated Romans.   The Lord is never hindered by gender, nationality, skin colour or any other diversity which seems so important to many people today.  Jesus only responds to the Centurion’s trust – in fact, Jesus says He’s never come across such positive believing anywhere, ever before!    It is really hard to shake off the idea that my relationship with the Lord comes from my good nature, or my background, or my righteous deeds.

In our Study Time, one other important aspect of the Centurion’s personality was mentioned.  He says:

“I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.”

It’s the heart at rock bottom, the soul with no self-regard, the mind that can soberly reflect on self-truth, that moves the tender heart of God.  In the beautiful words of one hymnwriter:  “Thy tender heart is still the same, and melts at human woe…” In his gospel, Luke cannot be plainer – come to Jesus by sheer trust alone.

Where did the Roman get this Faith from?

One member of the Study Time group suggested that, perhaps, the Centurion had seen Jesus from a distance at some other times.  He had listened to His words and tracked His actions.  Even from a distance the Roman felt he could trust the Galilean Rabbi.  He turned from the superstitions of Roman gods to set his faith in the one true God –  In the same way, our faith will grow as we study the Lord.

“They are watching you marking all you do, hearing the things you say…….”

Richard Bewes

Youth Praise (1966)

Where did the Gangster, Nicky Cruz, get his Faith from?

Some of us have read the very moving books about Nicky Cruz:  “The Cross and the Switchblade” and “Run, Baby Run”   When this troubled teenager came to faith in Jesus,  he recalls the source of his belief.  Thinking about the preacher, David Wilkerson, who had pursued him into the darkest and most dangerous areas of Brooklyn, he said:

“All I knew about Jesus was what I’d seen in this man…”

Can the Lord so work in you and me that we too can become pointers to the power of God?

“….let them see the Saviour as He shines in you, let His power control you every day”    

Richard Bewes  Youth Praise (1966)

Heavenly Father. we thank You for the boundless riches of the Bible.

Lord, may all these words take root inside us, live in us, flourish, and bear fruit, that we might grow inch by inch to be like Your Son, Jesus;

And, that we too, may live to love and serve You with the totality of our being.

We ask these things in His Name.

Amen,  Amen.  Amen.